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We keep going, but it doesn’t mean we stop thinking about where we’ve been.
I know you tried.
I know that in all those moments, you thought you were doing your best—and hell, maybe you were—but we both know you could have done better. You could have been more honest, more you.
You could have not been so scared by the What if? that you ended up ruining what could have been.
It doesn’t erase the path, and I know we both find value in the sentiment that everything happens for a reason, but sometimes in the dead of night, I wish you could have done it differently. I wish you didn’t always need to learn things the hard way and that maybe you could have grown from more love and acceptance, rather than longing and tears.
I believe that we are right where we are supposed to be, but it doesn’t change the fact that I wish it didn’t take us so long to get here.
I remember sitting by the ocean as a child, the fog creating droplets of mist in my blonde hair, and in that moment, everything felt perfect. I wasn’t afraid of what lay ahead, I wasn’t building walls to keep people out. I wasn’t wounded or doubting my self-worth, wondering if I was going to make it as a single mother.
It was just me. Me and the ocean and a whole lot of dreams.
But you’d lost her for a while, that me with the dreams. It seems that the older you got, the louder the voices of others did too, and so you lost one another. You became confused between the wants of others and your own soul. You stopped listening to one another, you fought, you wanted to be someone different, to look a different way, and you wondered why it seemed like you never fit in anywhere.
You let doubt creep in, and maybe that (and our stubbornness) is what sealed your fate.
You embarked on a journey to do life the hard way, to enter into situations knowing you’d be hurt—because there was a part of you that felt you deserved to be. You didn’t trust that love could be amazing if it didn’t have the stomach dropping moments of a roller-coaster. You didn’t believe love could be safe; you thought there was nothing wrong with never speaking your needs.
I wish you had known that all along you were looking for someone who wanted to protect us. Not stifle us, not change or even use us as a way to feel better about themselves, but someone who only wanted to make sure we were safe. Who would stand in our corner, stand up for us and our love, and be there when no one else was.
You wanted someone who knew there was no crime in not fitting the mold, in wanting to change the world in one breath—and you wanted that someone to be a strong man to curl up to at the end of the day, too.
There’d be no contradiction because there’d be no rules—no one has to be everything or anything, and I wish you’d known that then.
I wish you didn’t feel the need to wear labels like college student, girlfriend, rebel, dreamer, or even the good wife. They were words you wore around your neck, hoping they’d reflect the value of pearls, but all they ended up being were weights that gradually crushed you.
I wish you were braver sooner.
I wish that you knew that everything really would end up okay, and your fear of leaving your pain was only because you had become so accustomed to it, you couldn’t imagine anything better. You couldn’t imagine a time when it wouldn’t hurt to love. When love wouldn’t demand that you get on your knees while it took everything from you, leaving you feeling emptier than you knew possible.
Dear self, I wish you’d known how to walk away sooner. To not believe the lie, “Who would want you now?”
And I also just generally wish you had listened to the words of others, especially the men you loved, sooner.
I wish you’d heard them when they said, “If it weren’t for the children, we’d be together now.” Or that they just wanted to be our friend. And when they said they didn’t deserve us, when they asked, “You could have anyone, why do you want me?”—I wish you weren’t so ignorant of your codependency for so long. That you could have seen it wasn’t just love, but a need to feel needed. You thought that maybe someone would need you so much, they would actually stay, they would say the words you longed to hear.
You’d feel chosen, secure, and not afraid that with a new day or a new woman, everything could be lost. I wish you were more confident with yourself and less scared of being alone. That you were okay with being by yourself instead of needing some man to define your space, or to take pieces of you—because you believed something was better than nothing.
I wish you knew how worthy we are, how empowering it is to sit and speak your truth and not care what others think. I wish you knew what it was to own ourselves so completely that we could move within this world—steadfast and sturdy—and not give in to the whims of others.
I wish you had known that all along, we had this love inside of us, this confidence.
I wish you knew that it was never about him, it was never about dressing a certain way or appearing to be a character in another’s play. It’s about us. It’s about how we see ourselves in the mirror each morning.
It was fear that held you back, plain and simple.
You couldn’t imagine a different life, or how you could be happy without the attention from a man. You couldn’t imagine what it would feel like to heal.
And so, I know in many ways it’s all happened as it was meant to, but I still wish you could have done it differently. I wish you could have been different. I wish you could have seen the truth in our eyes in the most difficult of circumstances.
If I could, I’d go back to you now. I’d take your face in my hands and remind you that love is never supposed to bring you to your knees. Love is not supposed to make you cry more than smile. And I’d tell you that, while it all seems impossible now, life will be amazing soon.
All you need to do is stand up, one foot at a time. Breathe and remember your truth. Hold your heart and walk forward—not into the arms of some potential lover, but into the arms of yourself, the woman who’s been waiting for you.
The only one who never gave up on you.